In Defense of the Chinese Buffet

It's a life saver. Because it's a time saver.

With my brood, Chinese-for-dinner isn’t over until you crack open your cookie and read your fortune out loud to the group. I usually get something like “You will be hungry again in an hour,” while the kids get advice on what to do with all their money and power.

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Last week, my daughter cleared her throat and squinted at a fortune that read, “Storms make oaks take deeper root.”

“What does that even mean?"

“It means going through hard times makes you stronger.”

“Why couldn’t they just say that?”

Try saying it out loud. It’s more of a tongue twister than a fortune. And if you’re an 11 year-old reading it, almost every word could either be a noun or a verb. So she couldn’t figure it out. She kept saying it with a different emphasis each time. Storms make oaks. Take? Storms make. Oats Take. Deeper?

Each try was funnier than the last, until we were all in hysterics. I wiped tears from my eyes and thought to myself, this is the best part of my day.

This brings me to the virtues of the buffet restaurant, which is where this all occurred. I know what many people think of them. They conjure images of people coughing on your food, reaching into chafing dishes with their bare hands, kids licking chicken fingers and placing them back in the trough.

But here’s the thing: a buffet dinner gives you time. 

You go in, and you start eating. That doesn’t happen anywhere else. I make an effort to cook dinner at home, but I don’t like to spend most of the limited time I have with my kids snipping at them to quit snacking and warding off complaints about a dinner I haven’t even finished making yet for the love of Pete as they slink back to the television set.

And at a regular sit-down joint, we arrive hungry and still have to wait ten minutes to order, then even longer to actually eat. We get hangry (hungry-angry). We pick on each other. We whine and flop around under the table. I don’t know about you, but those have been some of the most tedious 20-25 minute periods of my entire life.

At the buffet, I get all that time back. I get to talk with my kids, and hear about their days – and I’m really listening, because I’m not annoyed and/or hangry. All we have to do is sit, eat, and laugh really hard.

It’s the best part of my day.


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